If you’ve watched any action films with aerial scenes in the last decade or so, chances are you watched a scene shot from one of these bad boys. Helinet has been the most iconic helicopter company in the history of Southern California, doing work in entertainment, news, surveillance and luxury transport since the 1980s. After the passing of its historic founder Alan Purwin in 2015, the company has strived to continue the high standards of service it’s famous for. This included a promotional video about the company’s roots.
“They were doing some rebranding and needed a promo video to accompany their redesigned website. They wanted an all-encompassing video to show their clients what the company represents,” said Ty Evans, founder and director of Ghost Digital Cinema. “When they asked us to produce it, we were honored.”
Ghost Digital Cinema is a production company based in Los Angeles. Its founder, Ty Evans, was previously a director for Brain Farm Cinema and worked extensively with Helinet in the past. After starting his own company, Helinet approached Evans directly to produce the video.
Shooting for Helinet came with some major challenges. The process of preparing for flight and keeping aircraft in the air is immensely costly and time-consuming, giving Evans only one shot at getting all the footage he needed. In addition, filming in Helinet hangars costs the company extra time and money as well. This leaves little room for error in video acquisition.
To film on ground, Evans and his team employed a RED Weapon 8K S35 equipped with Zeiss CP.2 Super Speed 35mm/50mm/85mm lenses. These were attached to a Freefly Movi Pro stabilizer so the camera operator could maneuver around helicopters with ease. The camera was mounted with Teradek’s Bolt 500 transmitter which sent wireless feeds with practically zero latency to a receiver in Video Village.
The video sent to Video Village was fed into a SmallHD 1303 13” monitor through the Bolt Rx via SDI. From there, Evans’ 1st AC controlled focus and tilt using a Red Rock Micro remote controller.
To capture shots in the air, Evans’ team equipped Helinet’s N67TV helicopter’s nose with Shotover’s F1 stabilized mount which contained the RED Weapon 8K inside. Once in the air, Evans could monitor and control focus/tilt from inside the aircraft through a F1 auxbox and SmallHD monitor connected to the gimbal via a long SDI cable.
The Bolt was instrumental in speeding up Evans’ workflow on set. Instead of spending hours of extra time reshooting scenes, Evans’ team could monitor a visually lossless feed in real-time and make adjustments on the go. Having wireless monitoring also removed any need for jungles of wires hampering the production set, giving them more mobility to capture what they need. This all helped to speed up the production, which made his clients happy.
The same workflow was used when Freefly Systems approached Ghost Digital Cinema to create a promo video for their newest product (at the time), the Movi Pro. For this project, Freefly gave Evans free reign over the narrative of the video provided that he shot it entirely with the Movi Pro and that he made a BTS video explaining the process.
“Freefly wanted us to show off what the Movi Pro was capable of. They wanted to do a huge social media push on their YouTube, website and Facebook channels. That’s why they had to have a behind-the-scenes video to go with it.”
The video, titled “Neckface: The Last Maniac,” featured popular graffiti artist Neckface going around the streets of Los Angeles mindlessly vandalizing cars and walls. Evans used the same Movi Pro and RED Weapon 8K S35 setup with Bolt 500 wireless transmitter sending feeds to Video Village.
Evans wanted to portray Neckface in a crazy, savage light which included various shots of him walking along sidewalks and destroying random objects. Capturing these shots required some unorthodox shooting techniques including following Neckface on a skateboard with Movi Pro in hand. The Bolt transmitter above the camera sent feeds to a receiver across the street, where his crew monitored the shot and controlled focus and tilt.
Having the Bolt helped Evans’ workflow in two ways. With wireless transmissions, there was no need for wires to bog down the camera operator’s movements, which was very important for this shoot. At the same time, the crew could monitor shots from far away instead of having to follow directly behind the camera operator, giving him more space to maneuver and get the shots without obstructions.
Thanks to Ghost Digital Cinema, both Helinet and Freefly were able to do big marketing pushes for their products. Having real-time wireless monitoring allowed Evans and his team to attain the shots they needed in as little time as possible.
“The sooner you can shoot what you need and wrap up on set, the more chance you can make your budget. That’s kind of what this is all about - getting the best shot in the most streamlined and efficient way possible makes everyone happy.”